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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

American Red Man leaf and Danish Oliver Twist are two leading chewing tobacco brands.

Chewing tobacco (also known as chew or chaw) refers to a form of smokeless tobacco furnished as long strands of whole leaves and consumed by placing a portion of the tobacco between the cheek and gum or teeth and chewing. Unlike dipping tobacco, it isn't ground and must be mechanically crushed with the teeth to release flavour and nicotine. Unwanted juices are then expectorated. Historically, chewing tobacco was the most prevalent form of tobacco use in the United States until it was overtaken by cigarette smoking in the early 20th Century. Tobacco in this form is now largely confined to rural and especially Southern areas of the United States.


Health effects

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, "Some health scientists have suggested that smokeless tobacco should be used in smoking cessation programmes and have made implicit or explicit claims that its use would partly reduce the exposure of smokers to carcinogens and the risk for cancer. These claims, however, are not supported by the available evidence. "[1] Oral and spit tobacco increase the risk for leukoplakia a precursor to oral cancer.[2] Chewing tobacco has been known to cause cancer, particularly of the mouth and throat.[1]


Loose leaf tobacco is sweetened and packaged loose in aluminum lined pouches. The chewer simply takes a portion directly from the pouch. This is the most widely available.

Plug tobacco is press formed into sheets, with the aid of a little syrup, mostly molasses, which helps maintain form as well as sweeten. The sheets are then cut into individual plugs, wrapped with fine tobacco and then packaged. Individual servings must be cut or bitten directly from the plug.

Twist tobacco is spun and rolled into large rope-like strands and then twisted into a knot. The final product is much lower in moisture than plug or loose leaf tobacco, and historic varieties could be smoked in a pipe as well as chewed. This was the most common form of chewing tobacco in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Tobacco bits are formed by rolling sweetened and typically flavoured tobacco into small pieces which are consumed individually. These are typically packaged in small tins like mint.


Chewing is one of the oldest ways of consuming tobacco leaves. Native Americans in both North and South America chewed the leaves of the plant, frequently mixed with the mineral lime.

The Southern U.S. was distinctive for its production of tobacco, which earned premium prices from around the world. Most farmers grew a little for their own use, or traded with neighbours who grew it. Commercial sales became important in the late 19th century as major tobacco companies rose in the South, becoming one of the largest employers in cities like Durham, NC and Richmond, VA. Southerners dominated the tobacco industry in the United States; even a concern as large as the Helm Tobacco Company, headquartered in New Jersey, was headed by former Confederate officer George Washington Helme. In 1938 R.J. Reynolds marketed eighty-four brands of chewing tobacco, twelve brands of smoking tobacco, and the top-selling Camel brand of cigarettes. Reynolds sold large quantities of chewing tobacco, though that market peaked about 1910.[3]

A historian of the American South in the late 1860s reported on typical usage in the region where it was grown, paying close attention to class and gender:[4]

The chewing of tobacco was well-nigh universal. This habit had been widespread among the agricultural population of America both North and South before the war. Soldiers had found the quid a solace in the field and continued to revolve it in their mouths upon returning to their homes. Out of doors where his life was principally led the chewer spat upon his lands without offence to other men, and his homes and public buildings were supplied with spittoons. Brown and yellow parabolas were projected to right and left toward these receivers, but very often without the careful aim which made for cleanly living. Even the pews of fashionable churches were likely to contain these familiar conveniences. The large numbers of Southern men, and these were of the better class (officers in the Confederate army and planters, worth $20,000 or more, and barred from general amnesty) who presented themselves for the pardon of President Johnson, while they sat awaiting his pleasure in the ante-room at the White House, covered its floor with pools and rivulets of their spittle. An observant traveller in the South in 1865 said that in his belief seven-tenths of all persons above the age of twelve years, both male and female, used tobacco in some form. Women could be seen at the doors of their cabins in their bare feet, in their dirty one-piece cotton garments, their chairs tipped back, smoking pipes made of corn cobs into which were fitted reed stems or goose quills. Boys of eight or nine years of age and half-grown girls smoked. Women and girls "dipped" in their houses, on their porches, in the public parlours of hotels and in the streets.

In the U.S., chewing tobacco was culturally associated with sports, especially baseball, for much of the 20th Century, but now its use by participants is almost universally banned at organized sporting events.

Chewing tobacco remains popular in the American South and continues to spark controversy. In September 2006 both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Senator from Virginia admitted to chewing tobacco and agreed that it sets a bad example for children.[5]


In the late 19th century, during the peak in popularity of chewing tobacco in the Western United States, a device known as the spittoon was a ubiquitous feature throughout places both private and public (e.g. parlours and passenger cars). The purpose of the spittoon was to provide a receptacle for excess juices and spittle accumulated from the oral use of tobacco. As chewing tobacco's popularity declined throughout the years, the spittoon became merely a relic of the Old West and is rarely seen outside museums. To this very day spittoons are still present on the floor of the U.S. Senate, though they are no longer used by its members.


In Punjab, tobacco is not chewed but kept between lip and gum after mixed with lime. This is called "jarda" in Punjabi. A popular folksaying about it goes thus " ਜਿਹੜਾ ਲਾਓ ਜਰਦਾ ਉਹ ਸੌ ਸਾਲ ਨੰਈ ਮਰਦਾ " (he who chews tobacco would live to be a hundred )


  • Apple
  • Beech Nut
  • Brown's Mule
  • Chattanooga Chew
  • Cup
  • Day o' life
  • Days O' Work
  • Durango
  • Granger Select
  • King B
  • Levi Garrett
  • Mail Pouch
  • Red Man
  • Red Ox
  • Southern Pride
  • Taylor's Pride

See also


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